Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Anytime Quenchers - Herbal Teas

By Carol Kagan, Master Gardeners of Franklin County
Refreshing Herbal Tea (Photo: Carol Kagan)

Summer – hot, humid, sun-baking. Working in the garden, mowing, playing your favorite sport or marking off honey-do list items brings out the sweat.

The weather man, newspaper and doctors all say to stay hydrated. We need to drink liquids but it’s important to limit caffeine and alcohol intake.

What to do? Drink herbal teas!

Herbal iced teas are refreshing. Serve with ice, a fresh herbal sprig or slice of fruit, sit back and take a break.
The teas are healthy and caffeine-free. Caffeine, a diuretic, can worsen dehydration and the stimulation can overwork what may already be a stressed cardio system. Please note that green tea, although considered to have healthful benefits, contains caffeine.
Making herbal tea is easy. You can use purchased herbal tea or tea bags or use fresh herbs either purchased or home-grown. Fresh and dried herbs can be used singly or in blends that can include flowers, citrus peels and spices. 
Include fresh fruit in your herbal iced tea instead of sugar
Easy to Make - Iced Tea
It is best to use non-metallic containers for making tea as metal can affect the taste. Use cold water to make tea. Be careful when adding boiling or hot water to glass or ceramic containers. Add water with the container in the sink and avoid breakage. For iced tea, the amount of tea is increased over that of hot tea since the tea will be diluted by the ice that is added.
For one cup with dried herbs, add boiling water to 2 Tablespoons of herbs. Dried herbs have a more concentrated taste than fresh. For fresh herbs, use 3 Tablespoons of finely minced leaves. Add boiling water and steep for 3-5 minutes.  Strain and let the tea cool. Pour over ice and serve with an herbal sprig or slice of fruit.
Consider using a stevia leaf from your plant for sweetner. Stevia is said to be over 30 times sweeter than sugar. Try one-eight of a teaspoon of the herb per cup and adjust accordingly. Two Tablespoons approximately equals one cup of sugar.
For a pitcher, rinse the pitcher with hot water. Add boiling water to the tea using the same measurements but add “one for the pot.” Steep for 3-5 minutes, strain and let cool. Add ice just before serving. Fruit or herbal sprigs added to the pitcher are a nice touch. 
Although using solar power to make sun tea is popular, brewing sun tea for long periods of time may encourage the growth of bacteria especially if using tap water. If you make herbal sun tea, make sure the container is clean (and clean between uses). Check the position of the container during brewing to make sure it remains in the sun. Refrigerate the tea as soon as steeped and use within 1-2 days.
Freedom or Liberty Teas

In early American times, when the colonists refrained from drinking English teas in protest of taxes, they turned to teas made from native bushes and herbs such as strawberry and raspberry leaves, mints, clover and bee balm.
Monarda didyma - Oswego Tea
Here’s an interesting combination you might want to try.

Marigold and Mint Tea

10 cups water
3 herbal tea bags (try mint, lemon, ginger) or decaffeinated green tea
2 star anise
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup edible marigold petals (pluck and wash the flower heads thoroughly)
1 cup sugar or 2 Tbsps. stevia

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add the tea bags and anise stars. Remove from the stove and steep for 1- minutes. Add the mint and marigold petals and steep for another hour. Remove the tea bags, anise, mint and marigold leaves.

In a separate pan heat 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar (or stevia leaves) and stir until dissolved. Remove from the stove and cool.

To serve, combine the steeped tea, sweet syrup and remaining 5 cups of water in a pitcher or other glass container. Refresh with fresh mint and marigold petals. Refrigerate overnight. Serve over ice and garnish with mint and marigold petals.
Marigold and Mint Tea

Some Plants for Teas

Dill - Savory – Blackberry - Bee balm – Sage
Lemongrass - Mints - Marjoram -  Lemon verbena
Rosemary – Borage - Lemon balm
Thyme - Strawberry  - Chamomile

Winter – cold and stormy. But anyone shoveling snow can confirm that we still sweat in winter and we need to drink liquids. Follow the same directions as above to make a cup or pot of hot tea, reducing the measurements to 1 Tablespoon of dried herbs and 2 Tablespoons of fresh minced herbs for a cup of tea.

When planning your garden this year, include some tea herbs for both summer and winter enjoyment.

Other links of interest about herbal teas:

San Diego State University: The Enjoyment of Tea
Herb Society of America: Fiesta in Lucinda’s Garden
National Institutes of Health: Herbal Medicine
National Institutes of Health: Green Tea Fact Sheet
Colorado State University Extension: Is Sun Tea Safe?

Today in the Pollinator Garden

by Carol Kagan, Franklin County Master Gardener

Stopping by to check on the herb garden I strolled through the pollinator garden today. Here's what's happening there this lovely morning. Lots of blooms and nectar sources surround the water fountain.
July 31, 2013 Pollinator Garden
Bees working happily on a variety of flowers. Some can be seen with their scopa (think saddlebags) full of pollen.

Bee carrying pollen in the scopa on the legs

Bee in the blossom tentatively ID'd as a squash bee (Peponapis pruinosa)
Also seen was an eastern blue-tailed butterfly. My photo is with wings closed as they rarely rest with them open. A reference photo shows the beautiful blue seen as they flit about.
Some plants are set to send out the next set of blooms to provide nectar in the near future.
Giant chives and sedum ready to bloom
 "The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others.” ~  Saint John Chrysostom
Thanks to Laurie Collins and to all who help with the Pollinator Garden.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Monthly MG Meeting - July 23, 2013

I wasn't able to attend the monthly meeting on Tuesday, but heard good things about it.  Thanks, Peg, for opening your home and providing the hospitality, and thanks, Autumn, for providing the educational component.  Enjoy the pictures, folks, provided by Peg.

The venue, Peg's lovely home.

Her Gardens

The arrangements (an awesome art eluding any analytical abilities, he alludes alliteratively and admiringly)


Food and Beverage

And most important of all, Education.  Autumn Phillips, former Horticulture summer assistant in Franklin County, and daughter of MG Niles Phillips, shares her Masters Degree research on seed disperals by small mammals in Central America

And a serendipitous demonstration thereof (local species)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Waiting for GoODmOTh

Waiting for GoODmOTh
by Carol Kagan, Master Gardener of Franklin County
National Moth Week, huh?
What's crawling on my coneflower? The caterpillar of a Common Eupithecia moth of the Geometridae family. It moves like an inch-worm (also the Geometridae family) and has tiny brown triangles on its back.

Their larvae mostly eat the seeds and flowers of aster, clover, coneflower, hoptree, juniper, wild black cherry, and willow and not the foliage as many caterpillars do.

Eupithecia is a large group of moths that can be found all around the world, and more species are being found on a fairly common basis. The genus comes from the family Geometridae, and there are hundreds of described species. The common name for the species is sometimes known as pug.
One of the common Eupithecia moths
Today I saw a hummingbird moth at my butterfly bush. Amazing. Not my picture on this one.
Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis)
There are several moths called hummingbird moths. The one I saw looked like a bee or a hummingbird. This one is a Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris diffinis).

These are found throughout the U.S. Unlike most moths, these moths fly during the daylight. Their favorite food is coral honeysuckle (preferred egg-laying spot) and butterfly bush. Their larvae feed on honeysuckle, viburnum, hawthorn, snowberry, cherry, and plum.
Larvae of the Hemaris diffinis

You still have 3-4 days to go out and find at least one moth or moth larvae. Turn the computer off and go outside.

For more information

National Moth Week-MG Blog
Cirrus Image: Better pictures of the Eupithecia caterpillar
Hummingbird Moth: Stay on the entry page for a fun look at discovering this moth

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What is THAT? Cecropia Moth Caterpillar

Cecropia Moth Caterpillar-Carol Kagan
Master Gardener Diane Fusting was showing off her beautiful gardens full of flowers, shrubs and trees, including a small, newly planted black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica) when guests spotted a LARGE caterpillar munching away on some leaves. We noticed several of the small branches were leafless and surmised the caterpillar was the "muncher."

We found two more on the little tree. After pictures were taken and lunch eaten, the trio was removed. One headed to Barbara Petrucci's house so granddaughters Zoe and MacKenzie could check them out. Zoe may even name it. What name would you choose for this truly unique creature?

The remaining two rode on to my house where I took a few more pictures with my macro lens. After I identified them as the caterpillars of cecropia moths, discovered they really don't do much damage to established trees, I relocated them to the cherry trees on the side of our house. Maybe I will get to see the full life cycle and the resulting moth.
Cecropia Moth
The cecropia caterpillar eats the leaves of many trees and shrubs, including ash, birch, box elder, alder, elm, maple, poplar, wild cherry, plum, willow, apple, lilac and, apparently, black gum. The cecropia moth does not eat. It's only purpose it to mate. It only lives for a few weeks.
Cecropia moth - largest in N. America
The cecropia moth is the largest North American moth with a wingspan of 5 to 6 inches. It has a red body with white stripes, bronze wings with white marks and eyespots. It comes out at night and is rarely seen. I think it is worth looking for around the porch light.

It's fun being a Franklin County Master Gardener!

More information at
MG Blog on Moths
Univiversity of Florida - Fact Sheet including all life cycle stages
Univ. of Nebraska Dept. of Entomology: Cecropia Images
Penn State Entomology Cecropia moth

2013 Summer Garden Experience

Saturday, July 27, 2013 9:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m.

What is the Summer Garden Experience?

The summer Garden Experience is the one day every year that Landisville throws open its doors to the general public. While we always have a featured speaker and many concurrent educational sessions, the farm with its numerous research trials and the Penn State Flower Trials are the real stars of this event. Come for a fun day full of information you can use in your own garden!

What is the Penn State Southeast Ag Research and Extension Center?

The Landisville Farm, or SEAREC, part of Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, is located in the heart of Lancaster County. Penn State researchers, Extension educators, and the USDA conduct cultivar testing of grain crops, forages, annual and perennial flowers, flowering crabapples, strawberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, and other horticultural crops. They also study disease, insect, and weed pest control, cover crops, inoculants, fertility, and other crop issues.

Schedule of Events

Featured Speaker Jack Hubley 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

A lifelong resident of Lancaster County and a multimedia advocate for the natural world, Jack Hubley will inform and delight audiences with his presentations on the wildlife in your backyard, featuring live creatures up close and personal.

Farm Wagon Tours 10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 1:00 p.m.
Take a tractor-pulled wagon tour of the research farm and demonstration plots with Center Director Alyssa Collins or Extension Educator Tim Elkner.

Variety Trials Tours 9:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 12:00 p.m.

Join the Trial Director on a walking tour of the colorful display of 1300 of the newest varieties of annual flowers for bedding and containers.

See how alternatives to standard impatiens perform.

Pollinator Trials—9:00 a.m. Which plants are best for attracting and sustaining pollinators in your garden?

Extension Educator Connie Schmotzer shares information on the ongoing Pollinator Monitoring Program.

Pruning Trees—11:00 a.m.

Is your pruning know-how a bit shaky? Extension Urban Forester Julianne Scheiffer covers basic pruning and best management practices for healthy trees in the landscape.

Garden Photography

—1:00 p.m.
Master Gardener Laurie Collins shares tips and techniques for getting the best photos from your camera and your garden.

Build Your Own Bluebird Box—1:00 p.m. Make and take a bluebird box. Materials fee charged; register and pay at Info Booth. Class size is limited.

Throughout the Day…

Short Seminars

Check the information booth for times and locations.

  • Gardening for Wildlife
  • Winemaking
  • Understanding Heirlooms
  • Season Extenders
  • Idea Garden
  • Veggies
  • Herbs
  • Invasive Plant Control
  • Turf Topics
  • Container Vegetables
  • Beekeeping Basics
  • Garlic, Shallots and Leeks
  • Pollinator Trials

Native Plants for Sale

Purchase great native plants direct from local growers. Also available, some of the outstanding pollinator plants from Penn State Pollinator Trials.

Master Gardener “Ask the Expert” Bring your garden questions and samples for diagnosis, identification, and recommendations.

Master Gardener Idea Gardens

Lancaster County Master Gardeners will be on hand to show you their native plant, rain, and pollinator gardens, decorative vegetable and herb garden, and raised beds filled with vegetables, perennials, and annuals.

Information Booth

Get a map, schedule, times and locations for all activities How to get there….


Southeast Ag Research and Extension Center 1446 Auction Road Manheim, PA 17545-9140 717-653-4728

FROM HARRISBURG: Take PA 283 east toward Lancaster. Exit at Esbenshade Road (just past Mt. Joy exit). Turn left at top of exit ramp. Immediately after crossing over 283, turn right on Auction Road. Follow Auction Road to “T” at Erisman Road. Turn right and follow Erisman Road around the curve. Then turn left, back onto Auction Road (just before the covered bridge). The PSU driveway is on the left as you go around the curve.

FROM LANCASTER: Take PA 283 west toward Harrisburg. Exit at Salunga exit (after the Landisville exit). Turn right at top of ramp, onto Spooky Nook Road. Turn left on Shenck Road (at the old Armstrong warehouse). Turn left across the covered bridge, then turn right on Auction Road. The PSU driveway is on the left as you go around the curve.

FROM YORK: Take US 30 east toward Lancaster. After crossing the Susquehanna River, take second exit (Prospect Road). Turn left on Prospect Road and follow for several miles. About ½ mile after crossing over PA 283 (4-lane highway), turn left on Shenck Road (at old Armstrong warehouse). Turn left across the covered bridge, then turn right on Auction Road. The PSU driveway is on the left as you go around the curve.

Shade Gardening Workshop Report

A Shade Lady
On July 6 it was hot by 9 a.m. so a woodland stroll through two cool, summer refuges was the perfect activity for the Master Gardeners of Penn State Extension, Franklin County Shade Gardening Workshop.

Master Gardeners Denise Lucas and Nancy Miller - the Shade (not shady!) Ladies - welcomed sixteen visitors to their gardens.

With a "challenging shade area under some locust trees,"  Becky Schubert, Greencastle, said she came to get some ideas.

The group gathers on Nancy's lawn

Denise and Nancy talk shade

They started out defining the characteristics of the different "shades of shade" - light, medium (part sun), and full. And be aware that shade changes as the sun moves across the sky.

Connie Strunk, Chambersburg, was "impressed with her [Nancy Miller's] shade data collection" of where and when the sun fell in her yard. She is planning to do this in her yard.

Textures are a basic shade element

Shade gardening is an opportunity to explore and play with different shades of green (and don't forget the occasional pop of color), texture and plant forms. At the right, a clematis vine with a pop of purple, slender bulb leaves and a lacy Japanese maple in the background play against the stones and ceramic fountain.

Coming up with a plan was on Laura Wentling's mind as she toured the gardens. As Nancy Miller's daughter she was noting specific plants she liked. "Once I come up with a plan," Wentling said, "she [Nancy] will come over. I will probably get some free plants, too."

A small "house" is a focal point in Nancy's plan
One interesting idea was to treat your outdoor space as you do your house - create small rooms or themed areas around the yard. Create a "door" with an attractive entrance that leads into the garden. An arbor or wooden bridge is a ready-made basic entry.

Side entry to Nancy's back garden area
The "floors" of your garden can be mulch, pine needles, grass, stones, or tiles while the "walls" could be fences, hedges, tall borders or shrubs. Decorate the walls with items that please you- chimes or hanging baskets of plants in the lower limbs of trees, sculptures, unusual planters and whimsical items such as a toad house or ceramic animal.
Tucked among the coneflowers

Overhead vines, arbors or pruned and shaped trees can provide "ceilings" but a peek of the sky as the sun moves is also interesting. Seating can be as formal as a table and chairs, a bench or even a tree stump.

Nancy created a great spot to sit and visit

A bench provides a place to sit and enjoy nature
Other ideas are to create areas such as a Japanese theme or a patriotic garden with red, white and blue. Garden areas that attract wildlife might include bird feeders and houses, water features and plants to lure butterflies and bees.

The wide variety of shapes and colors of hostas was a highlight in both gardens with both Nancy and Denise challenged to remember names such as Hanky-Panky, Guacamole, Patriot and Mouse Ears.

Many different varieties of hostas
The many varieties and colors of hydrangeas were also favorites
Master Gardener Barbara Petrucci liked the containers mixed in with the plants. "I think I want to get some containers and try that in my garden," she said.
A container adds a pop of color in a medium shade area
Around 11:30, after the garden tours, light refreshments were offered  in the shade and everyone marveled at Nancy and Denise's beautiful gardens. Master Gardener Billy Morningstar said what was on many of our minds.
"I'm glad my shade area is small. I'm not as ambitious as these ladies."
More information about shade gardens and plants
Alloway Creek Gardens: Creating a Sanctuary Garden Room